Beware the control freaks, for they still stalk the corridors

6th December 1996 at 00:00
What's your classroom management like? Do your students do what you want them to when you want them to do it? Are the books, stationery and felt pens all neatly away at the end of your lessons?

Such things are the bread and butter of effective teaching, but I want to sound a warning for all those training or recently qualified. Without good classroom management, learning of poor quality will take place. But don't let a desire to be in control crush the creativity and enthusiasm of your new students. Please don't become a control freak!

Classroom management can be taken to extremes, to places where the desire to control and direct begins to undermine the opportunities for learning. Classroom management may be a crucial skill, but it should never be allowed to become a way of life. Some teachers exercise control so superbly, it appears their students move around the room on invisible tracks set into the floor.

Such impressive displays can be captivating for newly-qualified teachers, leading to dejection and depression when their own classes fail to respond in the same way. Some become so distracted by the goal of good classroom management that they forget the key reason for lessons.

In such situations the approach to learning can become dangerously homogenised with the range of activities undertaken by the students curtailed by a desire for steel-like control. Such excellent classroom management practitioners are control freaks, teaching the content but often without inspiration and interest. Their desire for control far outweighs the urge to inspire a passion to learn in their students. They pursue the quiet life in the same way well-meaning parents rot their children's teeth through giving them comforting sweets to suck.

The key issue in any classroom is the quality of the learning. While good classroom management will effectively underpin this, an over-riding desire for instant compliance and impressive bouts of total silence may well have the opposite effect.

If control is allowed to eclipse the natural enthusiasm and curiosity of students, two of the key components of successful learning are lost. Students will comply with the stern, bad-tempered teacher who never smiles, but they will soon develop a strong dislike for that subject.

Things have certainly moved on from the all-pervading climate of barely suppressed fear which characterised lessons during my school days, but the control freaks are still out there, delivering lessons which look impressive to the uninitiated.

It is important never to lose sight of the holy grail of education; co-operative and confident students who show a high level of responsibility for their own learning. They do not exist in the classroom of the control freak - surveys show that children work best in classrooms free from intimidation.

It is important that we remember that one source of intimidation can be the teacher.

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